Alex Kersten profile picture Alex Kersten 6 months ago 62
Features

4 Things I Learned After Driving A Mk1 Skoda Octavia vRS

I've just driven a Mk1 Octavia vRS for the very first time, and I'm amazed how awesome it felt

Remind me later
Skoda - 4 Things I Learned After Driving A Mk1 Skoda Octavia vRS - Features

It’s the weekend now, and as I write these words, I’m sitting on a wooden chair in a workshop. The reason why is because Miles, our High Mileage Hero, is being fitted with a new interior (you’ll see this in next week’s video).

On top of this, the broken windscreen is being replaced, three men are still trying to fix a bad wiring loom, and I just got back from driving a Mk1 Octavia vRS that the guys at Skoda UK (who got in touch and offered to help restore Miles) have wheeled out for me to experience. So let me tell you about that…

1. It's a true performance car bargain

Skoda - 4 Things I Learned After Driving A Mk1 Skoda Octavia vRS - Features

The Octavia vRS is a car that’s synonymous with the police here in the UK. The reason why it made such a great cop car was threefold; it was very practical, it was discreet and it was really fast. In the book, its 1.8-litre 20-valve turbo engine produced 180bhp, which would launch it from 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds and onto a top speed of 144mph. At the time, it was the fastest production Skoda ever built.

These days, prices for Mk1 vRS Octavias are temptingly cheap too - anywhere from £1000 to £2500 - so if you’re sitting on the fence about buying one or if you’re looking at your Golf GTi and thinking ‘I wish I could fit another bike in the back’, then look no further.

2. It's wonderfully subtle and super practical

Skoda - 4 Things I Learned After Driving A Mk1 Skoda Octavia vRS - Features

Looks are subjective, but anyone who calls a vRS ugly is wrong, and for two reasons: 1.boxy is beautiful and 2. subtlety is sexy. In fact, this car is so subtle, that if you were to take only one thing away - the 17-inch wheels - you probably wouldn’t look twice at it.

In terms of practicality, you can get these cars in either saloon (pictured) or wagon body shapes. Both offer acres of luggage room, the rear hatch opens super wide, and folding the rear seats flat reveals enough space to fit half a kitchen. Which I did a few weeks ago in Miles.

3. It's surprisingly fast

Skoda - 4 Things I Learned After Driving A Mk1 Skoda Octavia vRS - Features

Older cars are great, but nine times out of ten, they’re disappointingly slow. Imagine my surprise, then, when I planted my right foot in second gear and looked in amazement at a speedometer that was reading just over 70mph.

This car is quick, then, and feels quite a lot more powerful than the quoted 180bhp. In fact, I’d estimate closer to 220bhp, but I’ve been told that this one is as standard as the day it rolled off the production line.

On B roads, the vRS is clearly a car that leans towards comfort over cornering flat, however. The suspension is a little wallowy, which unsettles the weight, but overall, it’s still quick and capable through the bends. The steering feel and five-speed manual gearbox feel great too, which help make the vRS an engaging and pleasing car to drive fast.

And finally, the Mk1 is also really comfortable, which is preferable for 90 per cent of driving.

4. I would buy one right now if I could

Skoda - 4 Things I Learned After Driving A Mk1 Skoda Octavia vRS - Features

Overall, the Mk1 Octavia vRS impressed me more than I was expecting, certainly in terms of performance and comfort. I love the styling and think they’re a massively underrated performance bargain.

In fact, I like it so much, that if I had the space and money, I’d go out and buy one right now. But instead, I have an MX-5 with no engine (but not for much longer because the V6 is now on its way!), a Mitsubishi Shogun Pinin that needs an MOT, Miles the High Mileage Hero (currently in for paint), and a wicked little Up GTi longtermer that I’ll be telling you more about very soon.

Poor me, right?